Youth, discernment Pope's pick for next synod theme

Pope Francis arrives to meet with youth at Kasarani stadium in Kenya on Nov 27 2015 Credit Martha Caldaron CNA Pope Francis arrives to meet with youth at Kasarani stadium in Kenya on Nov. 27, 2015. | Martha Caldaron/CNA.

The theme for the 2018 Synod of Bishops has been released, and will focus on how to best teach the faith to young people and help them to discern God's will for their lives.

Set to take place in October 2018, the 50th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will discuss "Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation," an Oct. 6 Vatican communique said.

The theme, it explained, is in continuity with topics that emerged from the 2014-2015 Synod on the Family, as well as with the contents of Francis' Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Amoris Laetitia," which was written largely on the basis of the synod's concluding document.

According to the communique, the theme "aims to accompany young people on their way of life towards maturity so that, through a process of discernment, they can discover their life's plan and realize it with joy."

By doing so, youth will not only be able to open themselves to an encounter with God and with others, but they will be able to actively participate "in the building up of the Church and society."

The last Synod of Bishops was dedicated to the family and took place in two parts, the first being an Extraordinary Synod in 2014, which was followed by the Ordinary Synod in 2015 that drew 279 cardinals, bishops and representatives from all over the world to discuss the challenges and blessings of family life.

The Council for the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is charged with preparing for the Ordinary Synod, which takes place every three years to discuss a specific theme of importance in the Church.

Greg Burke, Director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists Thursday that the topic of the upcoming synod is not about celibacy or the priesthood in particular, but is "wider than vocations."

Vocations "certainly will be part of that but it's wider, much wider." In addition to vocational discernment, it's about "the formation and transmission of faith," he said.

Asked to explain "discernment," Burke described it as "spiritual decision making," not only about whether or not to become a priest, but about "what you do in life."

Ahead of each Synod a theme is selected by the Pope, and the council prepares for the synod according to the topic chosen. The Pope can also call an Extraordinary Synod if he feels that the theme needs further discussion, as was the case with the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the family.

Following the conclusion of the 2015 encounter, Pope Francis named 15 cardinals and bishops to prepare for the 2018 gathering, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia being among them.

Serving as an advisory body to the Pope, the Synod of Bishops was established by Pope Paul VI in 1965 by the motu proprio Apostolica sollicitudo to "strengthen (the Pope's) union" with other bishops and to "establish even closer ties" with them.

It consists of a group of bishops from around the world who meet every three years "to foster closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and bishops, to assist the Roman Pontiff with their counsel...and to consider questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world," according to canon law.

The Synod Council is composed of a permanent Secretary General (Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri) and Undersecretary (Bishop Fabio Fabene), as well as 15 members – 3 from each continent, with Asia and Oceana (Australia) counted as one – and three appointed by the Pope.

Of the 15 members 12 are nominated by the cardinals and bishops at the end of the Ordinary synod meeting, and serve a three year term. Once their term finishes with the close of the Ordinary Synod, a new council is elected to prepare for the next one.

In addition to Archbishop Chaput, other members elected to prepare for the 2018 synod are: Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, Archbishop of Durban; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops; Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa; Cardinal Christoph Shoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay; Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila; Cardinal George Pell, Prefect for the Secretariat of the Economy; Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster; Archbishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan of Mouila, Gabon, and Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto.

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The three members appointed by Pope Francis himself are: Archbishop Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon; Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid and Archbishop Sergio Da Rocha Archbishop of Brazil and president of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference.

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